Politics

NJ Gov. Chris Christie Hits Record Low Approval Ratings

| by Zach Cohen
Christie speaks with two aides implicated in the Bridgegate scandal on Sept. 11, 2013Christie speaks with two aides implicated in the Bridgegate scandal on Sept. 11, 2013

Most New Jersey voters are not fans of their Republican governor, Chris Christie.

A Rutgers University poll released on Sept. 19 shows just 23 percent of voters in the state view the incumbent governor favorably, compared to 67 percent who view him unfavorably, Philly Voice reports. Similarly, voters consider his handling of the state's issues to be bleak.

Ashley Koning, interim director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers, is not surprised by the low poll numbers.

In a press release, Koning writes: "New Jerseyans are increasingly unhappy with the state and the way it is being run. With Bridgegate unlikely to go away anytime soon, the Transportation Trust Fund and gas tax unresolved, and a still-struggling economy, it's no wonder that views on Gov. Christie and the state as a whole have slipped to new lows."

The poll results come as Christie, who is leading Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's transition team, comes under fire for his suspected involvement in the Bridgegate scandal.

Prosecutors claim Christie knew at the time of the lane closures -- which caused gridlock for school buses, commuters and emergency vehicles -- that three of his top officials had closed the lanes, The New York Times reports. He also allegedly knew those three officials did it to punish Mayor Mark Sokolich of Fort Lee for refusing to endorse the governor. Fort Lee residents were among those caught in the traffic.

David Wildstein, a former Christie ally who pled guilty in the case, said that when the governor learned about the scheme during a Sept. 11 memorial service, he laughed at the news. 

Longtime New Jersey political reporter and member of the Star-Ledger's editorial board Tom Moran told The Washington Post that although the political ramifications of Christie's involvement in Bridgegate are a "big deal," he will likely not face any legal troubles as a result.

"Christie is not charged in the case, and most attorneys I speak to say that's because the evidence that he knew probably does not meet the 'beyond a reasonable doubt' standard of proof required for a criminal conviction," Moran said.

According to Moran, Wildstein is the prosecution's star wittiness, and his case against the two other defendants, Bill Baroni and Bridget Anne Kelly, is "supported by emails, texts, and phone logs," while "[Wildstein's] accusation against the governor is not."

"The standard of proof in politics," Moran says, "is considerably looser."

He claims that "Most people -- even Donald Trump -- believe that Christie knew all about this." 

Christie's political career is a lost cause, according to Moran. He's unlikely to be re-elected as governor, given the recent poll numbers, which Moran calls "Nixon territory." 

"If Christie ran for Senate from New Jersey, he would be crushed," Moran says. "I don’t know anyone here who would disagree with that. ... If Christie has a political future, it would have to be appointive office, unless he starts fresh somewhere far, far away, like Montana."

He says that, in New Jersey, Christie is "radioactive."

Sources: Philly Voice, The New York Times (2), The Washington Post / Photo Credit: U.S. Attorney's Office via The New York Times

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